Solving the SDP puzzle
With new applications and services taking the forefront at NXTcomm08, the software required to run those services — from delivery platforms to test and monitoring solutions and even databases — took center stage as well.
In a handful of conference panels, carriers and vendors talked about the future of the service delivery platform (SDP) — a key to delivering new services quickly, as well as exposing network functionality to third parties.
“The biggest challenge I see for operators is that SDPs are not about technology alone, but about the right mix of people, process and technology,” said Brenda Connor, portfolio manager for service creation, delivery and management for Ericsson. “It's about enabling an ecosystem and exploring the business models that this new ecosystem enables.”
Confusion remains about exactly how SDPs fit into other emerging frameworks, such as IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) and back-office standards from the TeleManagement Forum. To counter such concerns, the IMS Forum at the show announced plans to open a new working group this year focused exclusively on how SDPs can act within the IMS concept of “service enablers,” said Michael Khalilian, president and chairman of the IMS Forum. Industry recommendations on how IMS and SDPs can work together are slated by the end of the year, he added. The TM Forum, meanwhile, begins tackling the SDP question in a dedicated new project kicking off this week.
The most important concept for service providers to understand is that although software can be expensive and complex, following IT industry trends such as open source and component reusability can help turn that equation around and create a cheaper infrastructure capable of more rapidly delivering services.
For instance, Qwest Communications described its SDP strategy, with a strong focus on doing the extra work required to build an inventory of service components and features, so that future development can be faster and more affordable, said Andrew White, director of network application architecture for Qwest.
“Anything you build in an SDP, build for reuse,” White said. “If you define interfaces so they can be reused and think about them as service enablers, life will be much easier later on.”
Open-source software holds a similar power to change carrier economics. In a keynote address, Scott McNealy, chairman and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, noted that Web and IT players don't buy software anymore; they leverage open source instead.
“Why are you buying software?” he asked the carrier audience. Calling “sharing” a fundamental precept of the connected economy, McNealy stressed that in the telecom environment, “sharing is not just about open networks; it's about having the implementation, the actual zeros and ones, of [key software elements] on the network being open-source.”
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